Addison’s Disease In Bostons: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatments


Addison’s Disease In Bostons: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatments

Addison’s disease, also known as hypoadrenocorticism, is a hormonal disorder that can affect Boston Terriers.

This disease is also known as “the great pretender” because it can be challenging to diagnose as many of the symptoms overlap with other more common diseases.

This article will review common symptoms of Addison’s disease in Boston Terriers, so you know what to look out for in your Boston. Diagnostic and treatment options for Addison’s disease will also be discussed, including long-term prognosis for this disease.

Signs, Symptoms, and Treatments for Addison’s Disease In Boston Terriers

Boston Terriers with Addison’s disease may have non-specific symptoms, including stomach upset, lethargy, and not wanting to eat. 

While this condition can be life-threatening if left untreated, the good news is that there are many effective treatments available for Boston Terriers with Addison’s disease once diagnosed.

Addison’s Disease In Bostons: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatments

What Is Addison’s Disease And How Can It Affect Boston Terriers?

Addison’s disease is a disease that affects hormone levels. Hormones are necessary for the body to function normally, and the main body structures that produce hormones are the adrenal glands.


The adrenal glands are a small pair of glands that live in the belly of your dog very close to the kidneys. These glands normally secrete multiple different hormones to make sure your Boston’s immune system and overall body systems function properly.


Addison’s disease occurs when the adrenal glands stop producing enough hormones. This usually occurs as a result of immune-mediated destruction of the adrenal glands. In other words, the body identifies the adrenal glands as a foreign substance, and so the body attacks itself, which slowly destroys the adrenal glands.

If the adrenal glands become significantly destroyed, they will no longer produce the hormones needed for your Boston to stay healthy.

What Are The Symptoms Of Addison’s Disease In Bostons?

Addison’s disease is also known as “the great pretender.” This disease can be challenging for veterinarians to pick up because the signs and symptoms are non-specific and can occur with other more common diseases.

Bostons with Addison’s often have symptoms that are worse during times of stress. 

As mentioned before, Bostons with Addison’s disease have low levels of hormones, and hormones are essential for the body during times of stress. If these hormones are absent during stressful situations, then your Boston’s symptoms might suddenly get worse after an incredibly stressful event such as boarding or moving to a new house.

One of the most common symptoms of Addison’s disease in Bostons is stomach troubles. Bostons with Addison’s may lose their appetite, vomit, or have diarrhea

In addition, a dog with Addison’s disease will be extremely lethargic and listless. These symptoms may come on suddenly or slowly progress over several weeks or months.

Common symptoms of Addison’s disease in Boston Terriers:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased Appetite
  • Intermittent Symptoms
  • Sudden Onset Of Gi Symptoms Especially During Times Of Stress
  • Waxing And Waning Stomach Trouble
  • Weight Loss
Addison’s Disease In Bostons: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatments

Can My Boston Die From Addison’s Disease?

In severe cases of Addison’s disease that go undetected, Boston Terriers may have a severe episode of this disease known as an Addisonian crisis. An Addisonian crisis is life-threatening because dogs go into shock, and this syndrome may result in death if left untreated.

These are signs that your Boston may be having an Addisonian crisis, and you should get them to an emergency veterinarian immediately:

  • Extreme Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Coma

What are three common reasons pass away? Check out this article, What Do Most Boston Terriers Die From? 3 Common Reasons.

Why Is Addison’s Disease Considered The Great Pretender?

Addison’s disease is known as the “great pretender” because many of the symptoms listed above also are associated with other common ailments. Because of this, occasionally, vets may miss a diagnosis of Addison’s disease, and your dog may get misdiagnosed with having a more common condition.

Suppose your Boston has been diagnosed with another disease but doesn’t appear to be improving with the treatment your vet prescribed, or their symptoms return shortly after stopping therapy for these conditions.

In that case, you might discuss with your veterinarian having your Boston tested for Addison’s disease.

Here is a list of diseases that have symptoms that may overlap with Addison’s disease:

  • Kidney failure
  • Cancer
  • Pancreatitis
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis
  • Dietary indiscretion
Addison’s Disease In Bostons: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatments

Can Boston Terriers Develop Addison’s Disease? 

Yes, Boston Terriers can develop Addison’s disease. Female dogs are more likely than male dogs to get Addison’s disease, so female Bostons are likely at a higher risk for developing Addison’s disease at some point in their life.

What other health issues can Boston Terrier have? Check out this article, 10 Common Boston Terrier Health Issues.

What Dog Breeds Are Most Likely To Get Addison’s Disease?

Several dog breeds are more likely to get Addison’s disease. There may be a genetic predisposition to this disease.

One study done by veterinarians at Animal Medical Center in New York identified the most common breeds to get Addison’s disease.

Addison’s Disease In Bostons: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatments

Around What Age Do Dogs And Boston Terriers Typically Develop Addison’s Disease?

Addison’s disease will usually occur in middle-aged Bostons around 3 to 7 years of age. 

While this is the average age of diagnosis, this disease has been seen in dogs as young as four months of age to as old as 14 years of age. 

Therefore, Addison’s disease could affect Bostons of any age.

What is the average life span of a Boston Terrier? Check out this article to see the average life span of a Boston as well as their human year’s equivalence, How Old Is Your Boston In Human Years?

How Is Addison’s Disease Diagnosed?

If you think your Boston might have Addison’s disease, it is essential to visit your veterinarian for examination and testing.

Your veterinarian will likely start by running x-rays, a few necessary blood tests, and a urinalysis to rule out any other possible causes of the symptoms that your Boston may be having. These blood tests may have indicators of Addison’s disease.

Bostons with Addison’s disease will typically have abnormally high potassium levels in their system, and their kidney values may be elevated. 

If your vet notices any of these abnormalities and your Boston’s symptoms are consistent with Addison’s disease, they may recommend a confirmation test for Addison’s disease called an ACTH Stimulation Test (see below).

Addison’s Disease In Bostons: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatments

ACTH Stimulation Test

To determine if your Boston has Addison’s, your vet will likely perform an ACTH stimulation test. ACTH is a hormone produced in the pituitary gland that stimulates the adrenal glands.

The cost of this test is usually between $150.00 – 300.00. 

To perform this test, your vet will draw blood samples twice throughout the day to see what happens to your Boston’s blood hormone levels after administering ACTH to determine if your dog has Addison’s disease.

Bostons with Addison’s disease will have very low levels of the hormone cortisol at both time points of this test because dogs with Addison’s disease have a lack of hormones within their system.

How Is Addison’s Disease Treated In Boston Terriers?

If your Boston is severely ill, your veterinarian will recommend hospitalization and fluid therapy. Veterinarians will rapidly administer IV fluids to balance the electrolytes within the system and rehydrate your Boston.

The main goal of treatment is to replace the hormones within your Boston’s system. Your vet will administer steroid hormones, and your dog will need to be on these for the rest of your dog’s life.

Also, Boston’s with Addison’s must have their mineral affecting hormones replaced. Veterinarians will administer an injectable hormone called desoxycorticosterone pivalate (DOCP) every 21 to 30 days.

What Happens If Addison’s Is Left Untreated In Boston Terriers?

If left untreated, Addison’s disease can be fatal in Boston Terriers. The body needs hormones to function correctly, so if Bostons with Addison’s disease are not treated with hormone therapy, they can die.

When Addison’s Disease is out of control electrolytes, become out of balance due to lack of hormones, and dogs can become severely dehydrated and go into shock and eventually die if not promptly treated.

Addison’s Disease In Bostons: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatments

How Long Can Boston Terriers Live With Addison’s Disease?

The good news is, with early diagnosis and treatment, Bostons can have an excellent long-term prognosis. There are safe and effective treatments for managing Addison’s disease, and while this is a life-long condition, it can be managed with medications.

Once diagnosed with Addison’s, Bostons will need to continue life-long hormone injections and oral steroids, but with these medications, there is an excellent prognosis long-term. Many Bostons with Addison’s disease will likely die of some other cause as they age.

Final Thoughts…

Addison’s disease, a hormonal disorder in dogs, is characterized by a low level of hormones produced by the adrenal glands.


This disease can cause non-specific symptoms that wax and wane or come on suddenly. Addison’s most common symptoms include GI upset, decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. Addison’s disease is sometimes missed as a diagnosis because many of these symptoms overlap with other more common conditions.

Once diagnosed with Addison’s disease, there are excellent treatment options available. With treatment, dogs with Addison’s disease have an excellent long-term prognosis.

References

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Addie Reinhard, DVM

Addie Reinhard, DVM- Dr. Addie Reinhard is an experienced small animal veterinarian. She is a Boston Terrier lover and always enjoys caring for her Boston patients at the veterinary clinic. She is passionate about providing helpful educational resources to pet parents regarding animal diseases and preventative care. She lives in Lexington, KY with her husband, greyhound, and four cats.

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